- Determine Your Objective and Audience
You should always know what your client’s objective, goals and audience are for any event. This will help your planning by determining what your theme should be, who your speakers should be, the overall theme, activities and location. Having determined this will help you with other aspects, as listed below.
- Create a Budget
Estimate your expenses and what it will cost people to attend. Consider everything from the large ticket items such as food and beverage, audio visual, travel and hotel room nights to the smaller items that add up, such as speaker gift, parking, printing, awards, etc. This will create a framework for your entire conference planning. Your budget will also help determine what your ticket prices are for attendees and what your sponsor goal should be. Set this early on, as it’s hard to back pedal once the planning has already started.
- Location, Date & Time
It takes time to plan! Venue search and compare rates to see what is included at different locations. Determine what your absolute top needs are whether it’s wireless internet, sleeping rooms, breakout rooms, speaker/green rooms, audio visual, etc. Negotiate the pricing early on well before signing the contract to include concessions and discounts. Always ask for use of outside vendors, especially audio visual. Typically, in-house audio-visual companies charge much more than an outside vendor. Make sure you can waive or heavily discount supervisor fee.
Your location should also be convenient for your audience. Determine where most of them will be coming from or work and plan accordingly. The date and timing is also important. Is it over a weekend or during the work week?
- Speaker Planning
Having a ‘headliner’ speaker will help your marketing efforts and your attendance numbers. Speakers should be asked early on, as many of them have busy schedules or other commitments. Make sure the ask if coming from someone with a connection and the speaker makes sense to the theme of the conference or mission of the organization. You may want to consider a planning committee that focuses just on speakers so they can tap into their network.
Once the speakers are confirmed, start promoting them! Put together a press release, add their name, photo and bio to your website, social media and e-blasts. As them to share the event with their network or on their LinkedIn.
- Create a Marketing Plan
Any successful conference needs attendees. Do not cut on the marketing expense line item from your budget. If you need to hire a PR or Marketing Agency, do so! If done right, it will pay off. Marketing and promotion begins at the start of the conference. Set up social media accounts if you do not already have one, create a hashtag, and put together a marketing calendar that can be executed. Determine what social media your audience uses the most and use that as your main source of online content. You should be posting and delivering content consistently. Engage your potential and current attendees so they share with their network, too!